New Delhi/Islamabad: Prime Minister Imran Khan, staring at defeat in a no-confidence motion that Pakistan’s Parliament is expected to take up for a vote on April 3, on Thursday refused to resign, reiterated his claim of a “foreign conspiracy” against his government, and sought to blame the US for his troubles.
In an apparent slip of the tongue during an address to the nation, Khan named the US as the country behind the alleged conspiracy that centres round a diplomatic cable sent by a Pakistani ambassador. On Wednesday, Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led government had confirmed that the alleged conspiracy was based on a cable received from a foreign mission.
“On March 8, or probably before that on March 7, we received a message from the US…no, not the US, what I mean to say is from some other foreign country,” he said during the address, adding the message was against himself and the nation.
“The letter stated that the no-confidence motion was being tabled even before it was filed, which means the opposition was in contact with them,” Khan alleged.
Khan, 69, first raked up the alleged conspiracy at a public rally in Islamabad on Sunday, when he brandished a piece of paper and claimed it was evidence of an “international conspiracy” to topple his government. He has said the letter stated that if the no-confidence motion passes, Pakistan will be forgiven, and that there will be consequences if his government survives.
Khan said a Pakistani envoy was told by officials of the host government that if he remains in power, Pakistan would face “difficulties”. He added, “I am telling my nation today that this is our status. We are a nation of 220 million and another country — and they are not giving any reason — [is issuing threats]. They said that Imran Khan decided to go to Russia on his own even though the Foreign Office and the military leadership was consulted.”
The US has said it hasn’t send any letter to Pakistan on the political situation in the country and refuted allegations of American involvement in the no-confidence motion against Khan. The US State department said on Wednesday no American government agency or official had sent such a letter to Pakistan.
A US State department spokesperson said: “There is no truth to these allegations.”
On Thursday, the National Assembly session convened to debate the no-confidence motion tabled by the combined opposition was adjourned till April 3, when the motion is expected to be put to the vote. Opposition lawmakers tweeted a photo of themselves in the House with the number 174 – a sign that they had two more votes than necessary to oust Khan in a no-confidence vote.
But a defiant Khan indicated he would not resign despite losing the majority in the National Assembly and said he is ready to face the no-trust vote on Sunday. During his address to the nation, Khan said it was disturbing that Pakistanis were “in contact with foreign powers”.
He also referred to “three stooges” – Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz president Shehbaz Sharif, Pakistan People’s Party co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Maulana Fazlur Rehman – and said: “Will foreign countries want such corrupt people in power in their states? They are ready to accept such corrupt politicians, but I am not acceptable to them.”
In a speech that detailed his political career and his tenure as PM, Khan — a former cricketer who led Pakistan to the 1992 World Cup title — said he wanted to create a “free” foreign policy with friendship to all and allegiance to none. He also mentioned India and said: “…Our policy was not anti-US, -Europe, or even India… it became anti-Indian after New Delhi revoked the special status of Kashmir and broke international law in August 2019.”
His reference was to India’s decision of removing the special status of Jammu & Kashmir and converting the former state into two Union territories.
Khan ended by saying that he will “play till the last ball”, and the no-trust vote on Sunday will decide where Pakistan will go.
He needs 172 votes in the lower house of 342 members to foil the opposition’s bid to topple him. The combined opposition says it has the support of 174 lawmakers and Khan should immediately resign.
No Pakistani prime minister has completed a full five-year term in office. However, no premier has been ousted through a no-confidence motion.